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Starring: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis

Director: Iain Softley

Screenplay: David Lindsay-Abaire

Cinematography: Roger Pratt

Original Score: Javier Navarrete

Running Time: 106 mins.

The ability to bring books to life, simply by reading them, what a fantastic concept for a film, the makers of Inkheart must have thought so too in bringing Cornelia Funke’s novel to the silver screen. Filling the gap so aptly left by Harry Potter when Warner Brothers decided he should ascond to next Summer leaving the now obligatory winter fantasy film bracket to be filled, and can Inkheart fill it, potentially….!

For the concept, due to obvious copyright issues, can’t quite fulfill on its potential so rather than Harry Potter think more Stardust, only not quite there. For it shares many of Stardust’s charming features, a mystical netrherworld, a slightly confused lead, and a menagerie of stars playing it like they were in a (very) big budget panto. Brendan Fraser is Mo Folchart, one of a miority of people with the aforementioned ability of bringing books to life simply by reading aloud, something which he realises to his cost also sends loved ones inside the books. So as he searches for his lost wife and the titular book in which she is presumably trapped, the plot unfurls introdcuing us to many chracters whom have previously been freed to our world.

Sadly Fraser completes his trio of fantasy leads for 2008 on rather a damp squib, nowhere near as bad as The Mummy 3 but not quite as enthusiastic as he was in Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, here he just looks plain bored, and sadly its a feeling that often rubs off onto the audience. But in comes the fantastic Paul Bettany to inject some life into the panto, sorry, film. His rather dubious motivations drive the story forward when it often doesn’t seem to know where it’s headed and in Dustfinger we have the only truly likeable character, his scenes with one of the forty thieves really showing Fraser how its done, injecting some spark (pun intended) where it’s sorely needed.

Newcomer Eliza Hope tries hard but is often cast to the background in favour of Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent’s larger than life characters, treading the fine line between eccentric and OTT, something that the actors in Stardust managed with aplomb, and sinking deeper into the OTT performance roster is Andy Serkis. With yet another performance to further his slowly sinking carreer into a downward spiral, words can’t express how hammy he is (and that is no good thing!).

Diretced rather too ploddingly often chasing leads that go nowhere only in the effects packed finale does Softley approach what he is trying to achieve, funny whilst tense and using the effects to great…effect! The shadow is a fantastic creation, it’s just a shame that level of ebergy was present earlier.

VERDICT

With a fantastic premise Inkheart should have flown, as it is it’s hampered by a lack of direction and inability to capitalise on its ideas. Paul Bettany offsets the mixture of poor (Fraser) and OTT (Serkis) Performances but ultimately he cant save this dull effort. 

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